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Shortage Of Sponsorship May Cancel Celebration Of Light Forever


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Black cloud over fireworks

Organizers need $500,000 by Feb. 28 as sponsors divert to Olympics

John Bermingham, with files by Jack Keating, The Province

Published: Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Organizers of Vancouver's summer fireworks festival are warning the show will fizzle out unless they can raise a half-million dollars in the next three weeks.

"In the absence of cash, we just don't have enough resources to pull the event off," said Shawn Thomas of the Vancouver Fireworks Festival Society.

The society needs the $500,000 to pay for the fireworks, which have to be bought in Asia for the competing countries and paid for by Feb. 28.

"We have a cash crunch that has to be solved within the next couple of weeks," said Thomas.

"Otherwise, we have really no option but to have the fireworks not go forward into the future.

"If we can't bridge that gap within the next three weeks, then the event will cease to exist in Vancouver.

"This event, the four nights of judging fireworks, is the only event of its type in the world. It's free and it's family-oriented.

"If we can't keep it, we will lose it, and most likely not get it back. And there are other cities who would love the opportunity to try to have it go to their cities."

The HSBC Celebration of Light runs for four days in July and August and costs $3 million to stage. The money comes from corporate sponsors and local government.

About $1.5 million comes from in-kind donations, including $600,000 from the City of Vancouver, which donates services like policing, street engineering and garbage clean-up.

The other $1.5 million comes from corporate sponsorships.

HSBC Bank Canada, the title sponsor, is lined up again this year.

However, Telus will not renew its three-year, $300,000 sponsorship.

"We were clear from the get-go, and again in a letter last year, that it was a one-time thing," said Telus spokesman Shawn Hall.

Thomas said another major sponsor, B.C. Hydro, is undecided. But he is "cautiously optimistic."

"Even with that, it would leave us with a significant funding shortfall," he said.

Thomas, a PR consultant who volunteers at the society, said the search for new corporate sponsors has reached an impasse.

He blamed donor fatigue, and the lack of corporate head offices in Vancouver.

He said there isn't enough time to set up a public fund-raising drive, and it's not realistic to charge admission on fireworks nights.

Rick Antonson, CEO of Tourism Vancouver, said Olympic cities often have donor fatigue because sponsorship money goes to the Games.

"The Olympic opportunities outshine other requests for support," he said.

"The Celebration of Light has become part of Vancouver's personality and has been written about all over the world.

"It would be a shame to see it disappear."

Anne-Marie Watson, a former West End resident now living in Sydney, Australia, was visiting English Bay yesterday and said cancelling the fireworks would be a loss to Vancouver.

"It's a great event for Vancouver and it brings the community together," she said.

"The fireworks are very spectacular. It's a fantastic event and it's one of the things I'll miss the most about not living in Vancouver."

West End resident Maria Taboada said she would miss the fireworks.

"I'm hoping the event can be saved," she said. "If it's cancelled it will be more of the no-fun-city reputation that Vancouver is trying to shake."

Irena Demenchuk said she would miss the festival, too.

"We all get up on the roof and watch the fireworks.

"It's awesome. I hope it stays."

Said resident John Williamson: "It's a big event for the city and it brings thousands of people down to English Bay and the beach.

"It's a great event to people-watch as well. I know they say there are lots of yahoos and trouble, but I've never seen any myself.

"I hope it can be saved."

Mayor Sam Sullivan said he hopes the city's corporate sector can come to the rescue.

"I understand that funding goes in cycles for different corporations," he said.

"I am quite hopeful the other members of the corporate community, and the philanthropic sector, will be willing to step forward."

About 400,000 people, about a third of them from outside Vancouver, attended each of the four nights last year and pumped $54 million into the economy.

If you want to help, call HSBC Celebration of Light general manager Alicia Maluta at 604-315-4425.


Fireworks Facts

- years the festival has been held: 16.

- Cost to run the competition: $3 million.

- Attendance at last year's festival over four nights: 1.6 million people.

- Estimated percentage of people from outside the Lower Mainland: 33 per cent.

- Dollars spent by people who come down to the fireworks over the four days: $54 million.

- Number of fireworks fired in each show: 2,000-4,500.

- Boats on English Bay for last year's festival: 1,000 per night.


Would you miss the fireworks if they're cancelled?

Tell us by e-mail to provletters@png.canwest.com, or by fax at 604-605-2223. Please include your name and address.

© The Vancouver Province 2007

wow.....as if this city hasn't already lost a lot of its events. this is sad.

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they were saying this last year before the fireworks too... it's really unfortunate that this happens...

First it was the Air Canada golf tournament, then the New Years celebrations, then the Canada Day fireworks, then Molson Indy, and now maybe the Celebration of Light as well??? ......maybe we'll lose Vancouver 2010 too.

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Looks like my sources are mistaken... Calgary already has an international fireworks festival!


Well, it is a young such festival and, to be honest, I do not know how long this one will last. My mother was a volunteer, through the company she works for, at the inaugural event. It was not bad overall, in terms of attendance and popularity. But, it has grown a bit since then and I wonder how long it could continue to grow.

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This festival is always short on cash. Blaming VANOC is kind of cheap. Most of the VANOC sponsors are national or international and none of the Celebration of Light sponsors are involved with VANOC.

It won't "move" to another city. Its a local festival that attracts local people. If Calgary, Edmonton or Red Deer for that matter want their own fireworks show, then just go and put it on.

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  • 4 weeks later...

Annual fireworks show half way to their financial goal

Wednesday, February 28 - 02:20:00 PM Lyle Fisher

VANCOUVER (NEWS1130) - The annual Celebration of Lights fireworks show is still not out of the financial woods. The festival needed an infusion of $500 thousand dollars to keep the light show going.

Gateway Casinos and BC Lotteries came on line today, to cut that number in half. Today was the deadline for organizers to get their financial house in order and start preparing for the summer.

Their deadline for raising all the moneys needed was today but has been extended by a few days. Sources with the festival says the another big funding announcing will come very soon. The Celebration of Lights draws more than One Million people to English Bay every summer.

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The fireworks have been saved:

Big bangs for their bucks

Kent Spencer, The Province

Published: Thursday, March 01, 2007

A retail outlet, a car company and a property developer will likely save Vancouver's fireworks festival.

Organizers of the HSBC Celebration of Light said yesterday the trio of backers are expected to announce a deal has been reached Monday.

The announcement is expected at Vancouver City Hall to say that the last $400,000 of funding has been secured. Without it the seaside pyrotechnics will be cancelled.

With the money in place, four fireworks dates will be announced for July and August, as will the countries selected for the annual competition.

"Keep your fingers crossed. The job is not done," event president Frank Palmer said yesterday, adding, however, that he was confident the three businesses will get on board.

Starlight Casino in New Westminster, which will open in December, threw $100,000 into the pot and will sponsor the finale.

Starlight president Dave Ghadia said the publicity was a great way to introduce the casino to the public.

"We're delighted to be part of this," said Ghadia, as media huddled outdoors in chilly weather on the site's freshly-poured concrete.

The huge new destination-entertainment centre is near the south end of the Queensborough Bridge. It will be one of B.C.'s largest casinos with a private gaming room for corporate events and interactive sports bar.

A $250,000 cheque was presented yesterday, made up of Starlight's contribution and renewed funding of $150,000 from the B.C. Lottery Corp.

"This is a giant step forward," said Palmer. "We applaud the generosity of Starlight. We have to make sure the sponsors are getting promotional value out of it."

Event director Shawn Thomas said it is difficult to trim costs from the $3-million budget or save money by reducing the number of nights.

"Transporting the fireworks from China is a major part of the bill. It doesn't really matter how much cargo is being carried.

"So much of the sponsorship is in-kind contributions [$700,000 from the city of Vancouver]. They can't be reduced. It's this format or nothing."


© The Vancouver Province 2007

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New sponsorship from London Drugs and Concord Pacific, combined with a renewed commitment from BC Hydro, BC Lottery and Starlight Casino means the skies will again be illuminated above English Bay this summer.

The deal prompted a relieved festival board chair Frank Palmer to promise "the biggest and best show yet" at the press conference to announce the sponsorship.

The festival is scheduled to take place over four days: July 25, July 28, Aug. 1 and Aug. 4.

"We're very pleased the Vancouver business community has recognized the value of this event," said Maluta.

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